Tennis: New WTA restrictions leave ASB Classic's ability to attract star players in serious doubt

The ASB Classic will have a stellar start, with two of the biggest names drawn to face each other in the first round.   

Along with that fierce battle the Auckland tournament will also see the return of Coco Gauff and Emma Raducanu. But this could be the last time Stanley Street sees such big names.   

Elina Svitolina conducted the women's draw on Saturday, and the world No.25 was pitted against Caroline Wozniacki, who'll make her tournament return.   

But with new rules in place, the Classic's blockbuster clashes could be a thing of the past.   

During the year the WTA introduced new regulations for tournament fields. From 2024 no players in the top 10 can take part in the boutique ASB Classic - and only two who are ranked eleven to thirty.  

"Ideally, we would like fewer restrictions," said tournament director Nicolas Lamperin. "That's a discussion that we are having with the tour."  

World No.3 Gauff is exempt as defending champion, while both Raducanu and Wozniacki can compete due to being unseeded, an exemption she's not fond of.  

"I think every player should be allowed to play," she said.

The WTA wants their better players to stop taking spots in lower-level tournaments such as the ASB Classic and give upcoming players a chance to earn points.   

These rules won't just affect players, but also fans who may no longer be able to see their favourite Grand Slam contenders up close.  

But organisers are confident they can still bring quality fields to Auckland in years to come.   

"We just need to be more creative every year."   

The new regulations will go through a review process. But if they aren't overturned, top-ranked players will have to say goodbye to the Classic.

"If you want the smaller tournaments to not only thrive, but also survive, you need good players and marquee players to come," added Wozniacki.   

That means some of those stars to take the court over the coming weeks might be playing at the ASB Tennis Arena for one last time.